MOSCOW • British pop star Robbie Williams (above) has said the song is not about Russian leader Vladimir Putin, but he will still not perform Party Like A Russian at the World Cup opening ceremony today.
Speaking after a rehearsal for the show, he said he will instead perform "a medley, a smorgasbord of my greatest hits", alongside Russian soprano Aida Garifullina.
In the 2016 track, he sings "it takes a certain kind of man with a certain reputation, to alleviate the cash from a whole entire nation".
In the music video, ballerinas twirl around Williams in a lavish setting.
Pro-Kremlin media outlets were critical, suggesting Williams could be snubbed by Russian event organisers because of the song.
In response, he tweeted: "I didn't mean any disrespect by it at all. It's more of a Monty Python-esque kind of humour. I'm not mocking anybody. It's just a pop record."
The singer said he loved coming to Russia. "Because when we grew up, Russia might as well have been on a different planet," he said.
"And then peering behind the Iron Curtain, you get to meet the people. You get to experience the culture and you realise that, you know, they are just humans, just like me and you."
Williams said his stint at the opening ceremony of the World Cup was an honour. "Something like this happens and you pinch yourself," he said. "I'm pinching myself again... And I just don't want to get too overwhelmed because I know how big the stage is."
The performance will take place half an hour before Russia faces Saudi Arabia in the tournament's opening match in Moscow's Luzhniki stadium.